Monday, April 11, 2011

Western Avenue Series

Mile 5: 90th-82nd Street
This sketch is a part of my Western Avenue Series, through which I'll be making 24 watercolor paintings, one to document each mile of Western Avenue, in Chicago.  I started this project because while it is not considered to be among the most “beautiful” of Chicago’s streets, Western Avenue is a perfect place to document the humanness of Chicago, the positive and the negative. In the words of Stuart Dybek, "Western, with apologies to State Street, is a great street,  Unlike State, it is a street that goes to the interior, the heart of the city, as it glides and glows through a United Nations of neighborhoods."  Check back next Monday to see the painting completed based on this sketch.
This stretch of Western was perhaps the most surprising of the whole journey.  I had at least a vague concept of what to expect from the southern-half of Western, sensing that I would pass through Beverly to portions of the city which were almost entirely African American, followed by heavily Latino neighborhoods.  What I didn't anticipate was that there is a full mile of the Avenue, which is almost entirely wooded on both the west and east sides of the Avenue.
The eastern boundary of Western, for this mile, is occupied by the Dan Ryan Forest Preserve, which includes represents 60 acres of closed-canopy oak woodland.  The western boundary is more manicured, with the golf course of the Beverly Country Club taking up this piece of land.  The stretch feels remarkably undeveloped and thus rather surprising as I had made my way 5 miles into the city from its southern boundary.

Have you visited the Dan Ryan Forest Preserve? 
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